Saturday, April 22, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Boxing fans have spent the past couple of decades watching top fighters avoid each other in their primes and carefully pick lesser opponents so they can boost their records.
The lack of big-name bouts that would’ve driven even casual fans to order pay-per-view helped create a noticeable lack of buzz in the sport.
Saturday’s 12-round lightweight showdown between undefeated challengers Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia doesn’t follow that path.
Both fighters are at the top of their games and because they opted to meet, they have sent needed electricity through the sport. The year’s most-anticipated fight will take place Saturday in Las Vegas.
“I feel like this fight is big for the sport,” said the 28-year-old Davis, who is from Baltimore. “We’re drawing in a lot of people and a win on that night is really like winning a world title again.”
Garcia, 24, said seeing his face around the Las Vegas Strip brought home the meaning of this fight.
“This is what I’ve dreamed of since I was a little boy and now I’m here,” said Garcia, who lives in Los Angeles.
Even though both sides recognize what Saturday means, there is genuine animosity between the boxers and their camps, a longtime war of words that continued through Thursday’s news conference.
Davis accused Garcia of possessing only a left hook, and Garcia said Davis didn’t have much punching power. They traded several barbs during the presser, calling each other delusional, and chirped again when they came face to face for the traditional pre-fight promotional pose.
Both promoters didn’t hold back, either.
Oscar De La Hoya, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, got it started by saying Davis’ camp kept asking for various contractual demands to be met, which “points to a team looking to protect their fighter. … Nothing feels worse than your team not believing in you.”
“That is a confident fighter,” De La Hoya said, looking at Garcia. “That’s why you’re going to see Ryan come out as the new face of boxing Saturday night.”
Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, didn’t back down.
“We’re the A-side of the situation,” Ellerbe said. “That’s how the A-side carries itself.”
Some of the back-and-forth likely was promotional schtick, but given the fight is a sellout and is expected to bring in major pay-per-view numbers, it didn’t need much extra hype.
De La Hoya and Ellerbe knew what was at stake when negotiating this match, and they put whatever differences they had aside to make it happen.
“It’s not often in today’s age you see two young fighters both undefeated, both in their prime, step in the ring together,” said Tom Brown, president of TGB Promotions. “This fight will be an instant classic, an all-out war, a Hagler versus Hearns. The good thing is with Tank Davis, we have Hagler.”
Marvin Hagler knocked out Thomas Hearns in the third round of their epic 1985 fight, one of the most action-packed bouts in history.
The Davis-Garcia winner could set up a showdown with undefeated Devin Haney, who owns all four major championship belts in this division. Haney faces former champ Vasiliy Lomachenko in May, also in Las Vegas.
Davis is a minus-290 favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and he has devastating power. Of his 28 victories, 26 have come by knockout.
Part of what makes this match so intriguing is both boxers are capable of ending it at nearly any time. Garcia has won 19 of 23 matches through knockouts.
It’s like the 1990s when boxing fans knew they couldn’t miss any part of a Mike Tyson fight because he could end it within seconds. In this case, both boxers are capable of doing that.
A great show could elevate Davis or Garcia into a Tyson-like status that boxing badly needs, or at least begin generating the types of conversations in combat sports that have most recently been reserved for mixed martial arts.
In the co-main event, undefeated WBA super middleweight champion David Morrell Jr. faces former Olympic bronze medalist Yamaguchi Falcao. Morrell, 25, is 8-0 with seven knockouts, and 35-year-old Falcao is 24-1-1 who has won eight matches in a row, including five last year.
FanDuel lists Morrell as a minus-1,800 favorite.